Conocedor del hombre, desconocedor de la mujer…

That afternoon was the most strenuous of Andre-Louis’ life, unaccustomed as he was to any sort of manual labour.  It was spent in erecting and preparing the stage at one end of the market-hall; and he began to realize how hard-earned were to be his monthly fifteen livres.  At first there were four of them to the task – or really three, for Pantaloon did no more than bawl directions. Stripped of their finery, Rhodomont and Leandre assisted Andre-Louis in that carpentering.  Meanwhile the other four were at dinner with the ladies.  When a half-hour or so later they came to carry on the work, Andre-Louis and his companions went to dine in their turn, leaving Polichinelle to direct the operations as well as assist in them.They crossed the square to the cheap little inn where they had taken up their quarters.  In the narrow passage Andre-Louis came face to face with Climene, her fine feathers cast, and restored by now to her normal appearance”And how do you like it?” she asked him, pertly.He looked her in the eyes.  “It has its compensations,” quoth he, in that curious cold tone of his that left one wondering whether he meant or not what he seemed to mean.

She knit her brows.  “You… you feel the need of compensations already?”

“Faith, I felt it from the beginning,” said he.  “It was the perception of them allured me.”

They were quite alone, the others having gone on into the room set apart for them, where food was spread.  Andre-Louis, who was as unlearned in Woman as he was learned in Man, was not to know, upon feeling himself suddenly extraordinarily aware of her femininity, that it was she who in some subtle, imperceptible manner so rendered him.

“What,” she asked him, with demurest innocence, “are these compensations?”

He caught himself upon the brink of the abyss.

“Fifteen livres a month,” said he, abruptly.

A moment she stared at him bewildered.  He was very disconcerting. Then she recovered.

“Oh, and bed and board,” said she.  “Don’t be leaving that from the reckoning, as you seem to be doing; for your dinner will be
going cold.  Aren’t you coming?”

“Haven’t you dined?” he cried, and she wondered had she caught a note of eagerness.

“No,” she answered, over her shoulder.  “I waited.”

“What for?” quoth his innocence, hopefully.

“I had to change, of course, zany,” she answered, rudely.  Having dragged him, as she imagined, to the chopping-block, she could not refrain from chopping.  But then he was of those who must be chopping back.

“And you left your manners upstairs with your grand-lady clothes, mademoiselle.  I understand.”

A scarlet flame suffused her face.  “You are very insolent,” she said, lamely.

“I’ve often been told so.  But I don’t believe it.”  He thrust open the door for her, and bowing with an air which imposed upon her, although it was merely copied from Fleury of the Comedie Francaise, so often visited in the Louis le Grand days, he waved her in. “After you, ma demoiselle.” For greater emphasis he deliberately broke the word into its two component parts.

“I thank you, monsieur,” she answered, frostily, as near sneering as was possible to so charming a person, and went in, nor addressed him again throughout the meal.  Instead, she devoted herself with an unusual and devastating assiduity to the suspiring Leandre, that poor devil who could not successfully play the lover with her on the stage because of his longing to play it in reality.


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